Grilled onions a Ozlem
Prince George Road, London, 020 7275 9974

You know when you have a box full of sweets but you’ve lost the key to the flavours? You dig a hand in and grab a couple of lurid foil wrapped choccies and the first one is one of those luscious caramels, but the next is a fruit cream tasting of detergent. It’s a horror we’ve all had.

That was what eating at Ozlem was like. Lurching from the good to the crap via the decidedly average, dinner at this Dalston Turkish joint threw up a really really mixed bag of a meal.

After reading about Ozlem online I gathered in Dalston with Tom, Jen, Uyen, Simon and Mathilde expecting great things. And what I had heard was good was on the whole pretty good. But once we ventured off the (very narrow) beaten track it all went sliding downhill. Quickly.

The foodie grapevine said this was the place for Lahmacun. And the pizza-like Turkish street snacks were certainly very tasty. A thin and crispy base covered with a slender layer of minced lamb. The base was just right and the topping full of fresh herbs and zingy tomatoes that really enhanced the lamb. It’s the best I’ve eaten in London.

Lahmacun at Ozlem

Mixed mezze wasn’t bad, although they really like their garlic. After eating that, I could have walked unharmed through the most dangerous parts of Baghdad protected by an impenetrable green-tinged garlic forcefield.

For me this unbalanced the hummus. I like mine a little nuttier, a little thicker and slightly milder so that you can taste the sesame and chickpeas. The baba ganoush was likewise afflicted, although here the chargrilled smoky aubergine stood nose-nose to with the astringent garlic, fighting it to a stalemate. Of the rest, the chilli sauce was suitably hot, the fava beans were tasty and the kisir full of herbs and delicious.

We were filling up after a large pile of Lahmacun and probably should have stopped while we were ahead. One cop shish aside, mains veered from a bland and boring Imam Biyaldi (a roast aubergine and tomato dish that should be luxurious and bursting with flavour), to dry and claggy lamb loins and a fat drenched mess of an Iskander (lamb and yoghurt dish).

Imam biyaldi at Ozlem
Imam Biyaldi: they even made the aubergine boring

The cop shish on the other hand was well cooked. Nuggets of lamb were moist with just the touch of a crust. And they tasted really good. But what happened to the rest? Lamb loin should have been moist and pink with golden fat, not tough and arid.

It meant that five food lovers, not known for either their small appetite or restraint in the face of food, left quite a lot unfinished. This is almost unheard of and a real shame, because Ozlem showed patches of good cooking. But they were snuffed out pretty quickly by a wave of averageness.

There are much better Turkish places five minutes away. let alone in London. If I came again, I’d stick to the Lahmacun, and maybe a kebab, but stay well clear of the mains. They even make aubergine boring,

Oh yes, and the large empty canteen-like space had a less atmosphere than an aircraft hanger. Thank goodness for the company, they made sure the food and atmosphere didn’t impact on the evening.

It came to about £17 a head including a beer so it wasn’t like we spent much. It was just a shame it was so bland.

Iskander at Ozlem

6 Responses to “Ozlem”

  1. Mr Noodles

    From a purely selfish point of view, I feel less gutted about not being to make this although I do need to try the Lahmacun. You do hit on a good point in general about ethnic eateries, many places do a few dishes really well but lurking on the menu are some real shockers.

    BTW – love the quote ‘They even make aubergine boring’ !

  2. The Grubworm

    @Mr Noodles – yeah, the company was good so the night was a lot of fun. But the aubergine. Dear oh dear. It really fell flat.

  3. Leluu

    Ha ha… I didn’t even like this Lahmacun thing – I thought it was not that tasty!
    I eat Turkish food so often and this is one place I would certainly NOT recommend.

    I didn’t mind the decor – you are right it was like being in the aircraft hanger, but it felt like I was on holiday in deep dark Turkey – not deep dark Dalston – but it was empty and normally we can take that as a sign – if a place is good, there are always full of people in it – like all my other favourite Turkish places close by.. even on a Tuesday!

    Great write up and true to the bone! That aubergine was criminal – although I had to eat half of yours because my lamb was like a it had been cooked and left on the side since the 70s.

    Was a gret night nevertheless with you and others. xxx

  4. Leluu

    PS – Ha ha – poor Mathilde for ordering that Iskander – ooops!

  5. The Grubworm

    @Leluu – yeah, we should really have noted the tumbleweeds – boo! That aubergine was pretty bad. I left most of my main, and i never usually leave any food at all. And yes, poor Mathilde – she was so looking forward to the Iskander too!

  6. Restaurant Review: Ozlem off Kingsland Road (and groups of bloggers)

    [...] Unfortunately our meal at Ozlem was in the first category.  We had gone based on a review by another London food blogger who, where I have had matching meals, has opinions which are pretty much one for one with mine (Will Eat for Money here).  However, our meal didn’t reach the levels he described and was good lahmacun, average starters and disappointing mains (read Grubworm’s post for the gory details here). [...]

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